Welcome to Focus On The Fight, a series of interviews that will be posted every Friday, focusing on a blogger and their health.
This week we will meet Maria Thomas, she has a multitude of chronic condition including the condition we will highlight this week: HYPERHIDROSIS
Before we dive into the heavy stuff, please tell us all a little about yourself outside of your health! About your family or your hobbies!! I’m a bookworm, writer, editor, and a hyperhidrosis trailblazer and patient advocate. I work full-time in marketing, and my side hustle is my advocacy work. When I’m not going 90 miles an hour, I enjoy reading (obviously), handwriting letters to my pen pals, spending time in nature and playing with my Pug, Maya.
What Chronic Illness(es) have you been diagnosed with? Which one will you be focusing on today?
hyperhidrosis (uncontrollable excessive sweating), ulcerative colitis (UC), and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – a trifecta of difficulties
Let’s take a quick moment to look at what hyperhidrosis is and how it can interfere with daily living.
According to The American Academy of Dermatology Hyperhidrosis is a medical condition that causes excessive sweating. The word hyperhidrosis can be broken down into hyper, which means to much or excessive and hidrosis which means sweating. Everyone sweats as a cooling mechanism but which this condition a person will sweat in excess when the body is not in need of cooling. Many who have this conditions sweat from one or two areas of the body. Most often, they will sweat from the palms, feet, underarm, or head. The rest of their body will remain dry but those couple areas may be dripping with sweat. The sweating can be so excessive that it actually interferes with their daily lives. For example they may have problems turning door knobs or using a computer. They may also have problems with soaking through clothing or even developing skin infections due to the skin being continuously wet.
Now let’s jump into the interview!
Diagnosing a Chronic Illness can sadly be a VERY long process! For you, how long did it take for an official diagnosis? And did you have to act as your own advocate to get a doctor to take what was going on in your life seriously and look for a diagnosis?
I was officially diagnosed with hyperhidrosis at age 21, UC at age 33, and Hashimoto’s at age 36. I remember having sweaty hands as early as first grade, but didn’t realize hyperhidrosis was a recognized medical condition until I started doing my own research and found the International Hyperhidrosis Society.
I’ve always had what most would consider abnormal GI patterns, but I really figured something was wrong when I was going through a very stressful time in 2013. When I saw blood in the toilet repeatedly for more than a week straight, I made an appointment with a GI doctor. After standard protocols didn’t work, a colonoscopy revealed that my intestines were pretty angry. We went back and forth between a Crohn’s and UC diagnosis for awhile, and it was finally decided I have UC.
The Hashimoto’s thyroiditis came a few years later after a full blood workup from another doctor. My TPO antibodies were in the 2000s! Once you’re diagnosed with one autoimmune condition, the chances of developing another are much higher.
Chronic illness is just that, chronic. Please share with us how your illness(es) impacts your daily life!
Gosh, how much time you do have for me to run through a list? LOL
Hyperhidrosis-wise, I am always mindful of my clothing choices, footwear choices, the temperature of the room, whether I have a hand towel nearby to wipe my hands on, etc. I have a desk fan at my office and in my home office that I turn on and off at least 20 times a day to help me manage my sweaty hands so I don’t ruin my keyboard.
Ulcerative colitis-wise, I am no longer in remission. Just a few months ago I experienced treatment failure after 2.5 years on a biologic medication. I had tried several other oral meds first, and then in 2013 I had a severe flare that landed me in the hospital for 3 days. It was at that point I had to go on the biologic drug. I couldn’t control my bowels and was basically house-bound for weeks. Now, my body has developed antibodies toward the medication.
I am working with a functional medicine doctor to treat leaky gut – again – and am supplementing with a bunch of things to detox my body. I follow a strict Paleo diet – no gluten, grains, dairy, soy or sugar. My diet has made a remarkable difference in how I feel. I have little to no symptoms right now, but I did have to cancel a fitness class that I registered and paid for because I was having some stomach pains and gurgling noises that I couldn’t work out with. So registering for things ahead of time can be problematic, as I never know when symptoms will occur. I’m also sort of apathetic toward food right now. I don’t experience joy or comfort when I eat; I feel like I’m just fueling my body right now. So much of our culture revolves around food and the dinner table, so I’m constantly worried about menus both at home and at restaurants. I also worry about inconveniencing friends if I go to their homes for a meal.
Sadly, being chronically ill can take a toll on all kinds of relationships. Have you noticed this in your life? If so how has your health impacted the relationships in your life?
I would say it only impacts the relationship I have with myself. There are still days when I hate my sweaty body, but for the most part I’ve accepted my condition and am working to advocate for others that they can do anything despite having hyperhidrosis.
The relationship I have with my UC is always changing. I was scared sh^%less (no pun intended) for the first few weeks after I stopped taking the biologic medication I was on. I was afraid my body would revolt, leaving me weak, malnourished and unable to leave the couch. It brought back terrible memories of my flare that got me hospitalized. I’m being very diligent about listening to my body, slowing down and feeding it only good things. The gut and the brain are connected, so I’m making sure to take care of my insides because they can affect my mental health, too.
Sadly, living with chronic illness can be live changing. Have you found that your life has changed significantly over the years of living with your condition? If so, in what ways has it changed?
I’ve always lived with hyperhidrosis, so this question more applies to my UC. I can’t eat the things I used to, which has been very hard. What I would do for a slice of pizza or a bowl of pasta. I live in an amazing craft beer state, and beer has gluten, so buh-bye to that, too. I’ll just switch to gin. It’s gluten free!
All diseases have different kinds of flare ups, and every one will exhibit different signs of flare ups. For you what signs do you know to watch for when a flare is coming your way?
Every day is a flare with hyperhidrosis; I never know when the waterworks will spontaneously turn on. UC-wise, my intestines make gurgling and popping noises, and sometimes I get a shooting pain on my right side from my underarm to my hip bone. That pain can take my breath away. If I cheat on the things I’m eating, sometimes it will go right through me.
What do you do to treat your flares? Or to make your bad days better?
There isn’t much I can do for the pain. I can’t take anti-inflammatories as they are actually contraindicated in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. I just try to eat as healthy as possible, including bone broth protein shakes. I also try to rest and not feel guilty about slowing down to let my body calm down. I tend to be a doer and am very driven – a strength that can very easily tip over into a weakness if I’m not careful.
Being diagnosed with a chronic illness can be very overwhelming. If you could give one piece of advice to some who is going through the diagnosis process, or is newly diagnosed, what would it be?
Do your research! Seek out more than one opinion. For hyperhidrosis, don’t go straight to the Google search results that tout ETS surgery – the side effects can be devastating for some people. The International Hyperhidrosis Society greeatly helped me on my sweaty journey.
For those with IBD like UC or Crohn’s, seek out a functional medicine doctor. GI doctors are important, too, but they will rarely talk to you about your diet, which has been huge for me. Food is medicine! Just because something says gluten-free or whole grain does not mean it’s healthy for your body.
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